“A chemist colleague of mine runs a seminar in which art and science are brought together. And one such session was devoted to olfaction. And there was an olfactory physiologist from Columbia and a friend of his, a parfumier. Forgive my French accent. And the parfumier had made something unlike anything ever encountered on earth. And it had a very strong smell which aroused no associations and could not be compared to anything. One realized this was absolute novelty.” The Rumpus interviews Oliver Sacks about his new book, Hallucinations.
At Newsweek, Jeremy McCarter reviews The Cross of Redemption, a new anthology of James Baldwin’s previously uncollected essays and public letters: “At a time when serious people claim we live in a ‘post-racial’ society, the reappearance of Baldwin’s writing—insistent, accusatory, outraged—feels like a terrible family secret coming to light in an Ibsen play, or Banquo’s ghost showing up to spoil the party.”
Reviews are still in the literary news, and in the midst of all the nicey niceness and plentiful hot air, Alix Ohlin got a real smack down in the Times for her new novel, Inside, and her new collection of short stories Signs and Wonders. Which prompted J. Robert Lennon to consider: How does one even write a good “bad” review?
“What women do in the books mentioned here doesn’t consist of survival so much as sabotage. They throw bricks and rocks and flaming bottles into the chinks of the masculine world machine, then pick up a gun and fire into the turning gears. If rape and other sexual violence, religious servitude, and the politically determined inaccessibility of contraception can be seen as acts of war, stories like these may not just be a means of escapism. In the mind’s eye, they might be weapons, to be picked up, opened, and deployed.” At the Boston Review, Elizabeth Hand looks at women who fight back in fiction, from Gone Girl to Medea.